The Bundesliga will become the first European league to resume next week – but what is there to look forward to, aside from the return of live football? How about a tense title race, blockbuster clashes, and Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland aiming to break more records? James Walker-Roberts looks at what the German top-flight has in store over its last nine games…
Not only are we getting actual real-life football back when the Bundesliga resumes on May 16 – albeit without any fans – we are also getting an actual real-life title race. Hoorah.
OK, so Bayern Munich is the strong favorites to win their EIGHTH title in a row, but they have several close challengers.
Second-placed Borussia Dortmund is four points off the pace with RB Leipzig only a point further back. Borussia Monchengladbach is six points behind the leaders and even Bayer Leverkusen in fifth has an outside shot with an eight-point gap to close.
The big question is whether Bayern will continue where they left off before the league was suspended. If they do then they won’t be caught – having dropped just two points in the league in 2020.
The good news for the neutrals is Bayern have some tricky games remaining….
What are the best remaining fixtures?
The standout clash of the ‘opening weekend’ is the Ruhr Derby between Dortmund and Schalke. The last two derbies at the Westfalenstadion have served up 14 goals so it could be an action-packed affair.
Bayern starts with their first-ever trip to mid-table Union Berlin, who have already beaten Dortmund and Gladbach at home this season.
The league leaders also have games remaining against Dortmund (A), Borussia Monchengladbach (H) and Bayer Leverkusen (A), who are the last team to beat Hansi Flick’s side.
If things go to the wire then RB Leipzig vs Dortmund – originally scheduled for the penultimate weekend of the season – is a game to look out for.
Who is battling relegation?
Two years after seeing Hamburg relegated for the first time, could another giant be set to fall?
No club has spent more seasons in the Bundesliga than Werder Bremen, but they are currently in the relegation zone, four points from the relegation play-off place and eight points from safety
While they do have a game in hand, their form before the break was woeful, with nine defeats in their last 11 league matches.
Paderborn is in even more trouble, 10 points from safety and six behind Fortuna Dusseldorf in the relegation play-off place.
Who are the players to look out for?
You know the names already – Sancho, Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz…
The top of the Bundesliga is packed with talent, including several players who could be making big-money moves in the next transfer window.
Sancho has been in superb form this season with 14 goals and 15 assists in 23 Bundesliga appearances. He has been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League, although the latest reports suggest he may stay for another season.
There have also been reports that Haaland could soon leave Dortmund, just a few months after joining from Red Bull Salzburg. The striker was in red-hot form for the Austrian side and has netted 12 goals in 11 matches for Dortmund to take his overall tally for the season to 40.
Another player with an eye for goal is Bayern striker Lewandowski, who may also have his eye on the European Golden Boot. He is currently second in the table with 25 goals.
Werner is Lewandowski’s nearest rival in the Bundesliga scoring charts with 21 goals, and the RB Leipzig forward has been mooted as a target for Liverpool.
Bayer Leverkusen playmaker Havertz is another name mentioned with a Premier League move. Earlier this year he became the youngest player to score 30 Bundesliga goals and former Leverkusen midfielder Renato Augusto said he thinks “he can be one of the best players in the world in a few years”.
How will it work?
As the first league to resume following the enforced suspension, all eyes will be on the Bundesliga over the next few weeks.
The German Football Association (DFB) has said there will be strict health protocols and players will be tested for coronavirus.
It is expected that around 300 people, including players, staff, and officials, will be present at stadiums on match days. It has been reported that all officials will be tested early in the morning of the day before the game.